People's Climate March, New York City, September 21, 2014

The Association for the Tree of Life believes that the only potential for a livable future hinges on mobilizing our nation, in concert with the voice and support of our philanthropies, to bring about an effective carbon pricing policy.

A revenue-neutral carbon-fee-and-dividend plan is an essential part of US climate policy needed to drive a comprehensive reduction of emissions. We must attain its passage quickly, as time is running out for any effective response.

Yet pushing at Congress right now is a wasted effort, as fossil fuel interests control congressional decisions. And many people are confused about the facts and fail to understand the risk of climate destabilization. With poor and inaccurate media coverage and little mention by leadership, the issue is nearly out of sight and out of mind.

It is time to initiate an open, truthful national conversation about our situation. There is no adequate response without a culture-wide understanding that our carbon addiction is a clear and present threat to humanity. Achieving the carbon fee will require a major grassroots mobilization to win the hearts of enough Americans who realize that their lives, their children's lives, and everything they hold dear hinges on decisive action. The policy can be achieved quickly, despite the political deadlock and the massive influence of the fossil fuel industry. This can happen only through an extensive and compelling warning campaign.

Campaign Components:

  • Goal: To build a broad-based movement, in which a sizable segment of the public understands the dangers, demands action of public officials, and achieves a price on carbon. As with other effective social movements, public involvement will cause the change in policy. Other legislative and policy changes will follow later from the carbon-fee-and-dividend centerpiece.
  • Philanthropic Support: Success hinges upon philanthropy providing extraordinary financial support and partnership for the success of the Climate Breakthrough Campaign.
  • Media Saturation: Philanthropy becomes the "Paul Revere" voice in warning the public and calling for climate action. It alone has the credibility, influence, and resources to fulfill this role by funding an extensive media outreach that includes every available form of cultural persuasion, such as: public service announcements, special programming, and media of all types.
  • Education Campaign: The public must be informed about the looming climate crisis, the necessity of a carbon price, its affordability, why the US must lead, and the urgent timeframe for effective action. Greenhouse warming is basic science and can be readily grasped by most. The accompanying curriculum will be riveting, inspiring, and will catalyze action.
  • Grassroots Mobilization: A campaign of public outreach, direct action, and political advocacy will be mobilized, involving a coordinated network of grassroots groups. Citizens will be shown that they are critical to catalyze the necessary changes to avert climate catastrophe. They will be encouraged to participate in a wide range of roles in the growing movement.
  • Political Engagement: These efforts must also be supported by an effective political strategy that leads to national policies that drastically reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.
  • Timeframe: This campaign must succeed within President Obama's second term, or the buildup of carbon in the atmosphere will make it too late to stay within the 2°C heat ceiling. Each year we delay, the required emissions cuts become steeper and more difficult to achieve.

The relevant model is the national teach-in that accompanied the First Earth Day in 1970. One in ten Americans hit the streets, calling for reforms. An entire suite of green policies was enacted as a result. Had we continued the environmental progress and momentum generated by this event—the largest show of public support ever—we might not be facing complete catastrophe today.



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